marilyn monroe gentlemen prefer blondes movie
Performing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Billy Wilder, who directed her in The Seven year Itch and Some Like It Hot, remarked upon the “luminosity” of Monroe’s face. She seemed literally incandescent. Her skin was covered with a fair, downy peach fuzz, which reflected the light and amplified her glow before the camera.

When the studio wanted to wax it off, she wouldn’t allow it. Her natural radiance was helped along by surgical interventions. An overbite, which accentuated her pout, was corrected, and a bump on her nose was reduced early in her career.

There was also the aid offered by cosmetics, often applied by her longtime makeup artist, Allan Snyder. For her final movie, The Misfits (during the filming of which she was drinking to excess and abusing prescription drugs) Snyder started working on her while she was still lying in bed in the mornings, because of how long it took her to get up.

At the time of her death, her makeup case contained pots of Erno Laszlo creams, as well as a green Leichner of London Eye Stopper pencil liners, and false lashes made by Glorene of Hollywood. It was auctioned at Christie’s in 1999, along with other personal effects, with a preauction estimated price of $1,000 to $1,500. The case and its contents sold to Rippley’s Believe It Or Not! for more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Early photographs of Monroe, taken when she was in 18-year-old munitions-factory worker, show her with long brunette curls that were only transformed into what became her signature platinum after she signed with a modeling agency. She turned to Pearl Porterfield, a colorist who had been responsible for Jean Harlow’s locks and who used old-fashioned peroxide to achieve the desired result.

Monroe while she was still working at the Radioplane factory
Monroe while still working at the Radioplane factory in late 1944

Monroe would rely upon several hairdressers over the decades, including Kenneth Battelle, who prepared her for her appearance at the birthday gala for President Kennedy. (Battelle also did Jacqueline Kennedy’s hair).

Blonde hair, like a high, breathy voice, which Marilyn Monroe demonstrated in her presidential serenade, is associated with youth and innocence. Her womanliness was augmented by a childlike cuteness that rendered her unthreatening to other women at the same time that she was irresistibly appealing to men.

Pauline Kael, the film critic, said of her, “Women couldn’t take her seriously enough to be indignant: She was funny and impulsive in a way that made people feel protective”.

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